SEATTLE — The third quarter changed the Apple Cup on Friday, and it was a screen pass from Keith Price to Bishop Sankey that changed the third quarter in Washington’s direction.
Washington State had taken a seven-point lead into halftime, but that turned around in a hurry. The Huskies went on a 17-point tear in the third quarter, igniting themselves in a 27-17 win at Husky Stadium.
“We played awesome in the third quarter,” UW coach Steve Sarkisian said. “To get 17 points, to do what we were doing defensively, to get stops. The offense found their rhythm. They really played a tremendous second half.”
Sankey gained 80 of his 200 yards rushing in the third quarter. And Price had seven of his 15 completions, including his lone touchdown pass: an 18-yarder to tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
And yet, the Cougars said things might have turned out differently if not for one crucial failure to get the Huskies off the field.
UW opened its first possession of the second half with a pair of runs that moved the ball 5 yards to the Washington 20. Then, needing 5 yards to avoid a three-and-out deep in Huskies territory, Price swung a short pass to Sankey, who took it 40 yards to the WSU 40.
“That was a pretty big play,” WSU coach Mike Leach said. “... We got them third and long. If we had kept them pinned back, it was going to increase the pressure on them and certainly the tempo of the second half. Then they converted, and that was a huge play for them.”
Five plays later, Washington evened the score.
On the Huskies’ next possession, Sankey’s 7-yard touchdown run gave them a lead they never relinquished. On their last drive of the quarter, they added a 39-yard field goal that put them ahead, 20-10.
“(The screen) was a big play,” WSU safety Deone Bucannon said. “But we should have forgotten that play, and we should have focused on the plays after that to prevent that from scoring. That didn’t happen.”
Adding to the Cougars’ frustration was their belief that the Huskies’ strategy hadn’t changed. Leach and his defensive players said they were seeing the same plays they had stopped in the first half. But now the Huskies were making them work.
“They didn’t make any halftime adjustments,” WSU linebacker Justin Sagote said. “They just kept running the same plays over and over, and then finally they just kept getting yards.”
That has been the norm for Washington, which has outscored its opponents in the first quarter, 177-65, this season.
However, Friday was the first time this season that the Huskies hadn’t scored a first-half touchdown.
“We felt good (at halftime),” Bucannon said. “But we understood as a team that it’s far from over. We should have come out in the second half with the same intensity that we had in the first half. Unfortunately we didn’t. But at the same time, we continued to fight, and I’ll fight with this team any day. We have a great mindset, and we had that same mindset going into the second half. Unfortunately, they made some more plays.”